YEREVAN (Arka)—A 35 percent poverty level combined with high unemployment remain the most common causes of migration in Armenia, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ara Petrosyan said at a conference on demographic challenges in Armenia, which was organized by the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the UN office in Armenia.
According to the deputy minister, causes include the devastating earthquake in 1988 that was followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Karabakh war, and the transport blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Among other acute problems, Petrosyan also mentioned the country’s low birth rate, which hinders population growth. “The birth rate is a serious predicament and an acute problem in developed countries, and Armenia is not exempt from this demographic problem,” he said.
UN Resident Coordinator in Armenia Bradley Busetto spoke about the importance of developing a policy that will not only mitigate the negative impact of these challenges, but also identify the positive sides and benefits of the current situation.
The conference was attended by representatives of concerned government agencies and parliament members.
According to the National Statistical Service (NSS), Armenia’s population decreased by 15 thousand people in the first six months of this year when compared with the beginning of the year.
According to the NSS, the negative migration balance exceeds the natural growth of the population. In Jan.-June the birth rate exceeded the death rate by a factor of 1.3. At the end of June, the permanent population stood at 3.0119 million, of which 1.9044 million were urban residents while the rest were rural.
Another challenging issue is the “brain drain” that accompanies Armenia’s emigration. “Brain drain” deprives the country of its educated and intelligent individuals that could otherwise contribute to economic growth.
Research professor of Arizona State University, Dr. Victor Aghadjanian, and Arusyak Sevoyan, researcher at the Australian Center for Migration and Population Studies, University of Adelaide, presented findings from their studies on Armenia.
Victor Aghadjanian of Arizona State University introduced the impact of international migration on Armenian households. His survey in Tavush, Ararat, and Gegharkunik found that migrant families are less likely to engage in farming. There is no evidence, he said, that rural migrant workers will earn money abroad and return to their home to buy farming land and develop agriculture. In other words, migrants, on the whole, do not invest money in Armenia.
Polls in the mentioned regions revealed that the wives of married migrants are ready to leave Armenia with their children. Hence, according to Victor Aghadjanian, migration tends to uproot the economy. In this respect, Armenia’s joining the Customs Union will definitely have an impact, the expert says.
The report does not express any optimism. The survey revealed that emigration of young people is determined by the lack of opportunities for professional growth and development, as well as the wish to live in a society with better protection of human rights, democracy, and governance. According to another survey covering the whole territory of Armenia, one third of all respondents plan on leaving the country in the next two years. In addition, employed respondents are looking to leaving for other countries in seeking higher pay and better opportunities for use of their professional qualifications.
According to the survey, emigration is boosted by systemic issues such as centralization of business and monopolies and issues in education and the judicial sector. The report states that the business sector is handled by a group of people who are also directly involved in public administration, supervising specific areas or sectors of the economy. This makes smaller competitors vulnerable, causing unemployment and unequal distribution of income throughout the society, the report says.
The report also touches upon relations with the Diaspora. The authors of the report think it is necessary to draft a clear strategy and action plan for repatriation and admission of Diaspora Armenians returning to the homeland.